Xanthippe

Xanthippe

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Xanthippe was the wife of Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

 and mother of their three sons: Lamprocles
Lamprocles
Lamprocles was Socrates' and Xanthippe's eldest son. His two brothers were Menexenus and Sophroniscus. Lamprocles was only a lad at the time of Socrates' trial and death...

, Sophroniscus
Sophroniscus
Sophroniscus, husband of Phaenarete, was the father of the philosopher Socrates.-Occupation:Little is known about Sophroniscus, and his relationship with his son Socrates...

, and Menexenus
Menexenus
The Menexenus is a Socratic dialogue of Plato, traditionally included in the seventh tetralogy along with the Greater and Lesser Hippias and the Ion. The characters are Socrates and Menexenus, who is not to be confused with Socrates' son Menexenus. The Menexenus of Plato's dialogue appears also...

. There are far more stories about her than there are facts. She was likely much younger than Socrates, perhaps by as much as forty years.

Name


Xanthippe means "blonde horse", from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 ξανθός "xanthos" (blonde) and ‘ιππος "hippos" (horse
Horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

). Hers is one of many Greek personal names with a horse theme (cf. Philippos: "friend of horses"; Hippocrates: "horse tamer" etc). The "hippos" in an ancient Greek name often suggested aristocratic heritage. One additional reason for thinking Xanthippe's family was socially prominent was that her eldest son was named Lamprocles
Lamprocles
Lamprocles was Socrates' and Xanthippe's eldest son. His two brothers were Menexenus and Sophroniscus. Lamprocles was only a lad at the time of Socrates' trial and death...

 instead of "Sophroniscus" (after Socrates' father
Sophroniscus
Sophroniscus, husband of Phaenarete, was the father of the philosopher Socrates.-Occupation:Little is known about Sophroniscus, and his relationship with his son Socrates...

). The ancient Greek custom was to name one's first child after the more illustrious of the two grandfathers. Xanthippe's father is believed to have been named Lamprocles. Since he was even more well-established in Athenian aristocracy than was Socrates' father, his name would have been the preferred choice for the name of the first-born son.

Character


Plato's portrayal of Xanthippe (in his Phaedo
Phaedo
Plato's Phaedo is one of the great dialogues of his middle period, along with the Republic and the Symposium. The Phaedo, which depicts the death of Socrates, is also Plato's seventh and last dialogue to detail the philosopher's final days .In the dialogue, Socrates...

) suggests that she was nothing less than a devoted wife and mother (60a-b, 116b; she is mentioned nowhere else in Plato). Xenophon
Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

, in his Memorabilia, portrays her in much the same light, though he does make Lamprocles
Lamprocles
Lamprocles was Socrates' and Xanthippe's eldest son. His two brothers were Menexenus and Sophroniscus. Lamprocles was only a lad at the time of Socrates' trial and death...

 complain of her harshness (2.2.7-9); it could be argued that this is fairly typical of an adolescent's views of a strict parent. It is only in Xenophon's Symposium
Symposium (Xenophon)
Xenophon's Symposium records the discussion of Socratesand company at a dinner given by Callias for Autolycus, son of Lycon. Xenophon's Symposium (Συμπόσιον) records the discussion of Socratesand company at a dinner given by Callias for Autolycus, son of Lycon. Xenophon's Symposium (Συμπόσιον)...

where we have Socrates agree that she is (in Antisthenes
Antisthenes
Antisthenes was a Greek philosopher and a pupil of Socrates. Antisthenes first learned rhetoric under Gorgias before becoming an ardent disciple of Socrates. He adopted and developed the ethical side of Socrates' teachings, advocating an ascetic life lived in accordance with virtue. Later writers...

' words) "the hardest to get along with of all the women there are" (2.10). Nevertheless, Socrates adds that he chose her precisely because of her argumentative spirit:

It is the example of the rider who wishes to become an expert horseman: "None of your soft-mouthed, docile animals for me," he says; "the horse for me to own must show some spirit" in the belief, no doubt, if he can manage such an animal, it will be easy enough to deal with every other horse besides. And that is just my case. I wish to deal with human beings, to associate with man in general; hence my choice of wife. I know full well, if I can tolerate her spirit, I can with ease attach myself to every human being else. (Symposium 17-19 [= 2.10])


Perhaps this picture of Xanthippe originated with the historical Antisthenes, one of Socrates' pupils, since Xenophon initially puts this view into his mouth. Aelian
Claudius Aelianus
Claudius Aelianus , often seen as just Aelian, born at Praeneste, was a Roman author and teacher of rhetoric who flourished under Septimius Severus and probably outlived Elagabalus, who died in 222...

 also depicts her as a jealous shrew in his description of an episode in which she tramples underfoot a large and beautiful cake sent to Socrates by Alcibiades
Alcibiades
Alcibiades, son of Clinias, from the deme of Scambonidae , was a prominent Athenian statesman, orator, and general. He was the last famous member of his mother's aristocratic family, the Alcmaeonidae, which fell from prominence after the Peloponnesian War...

. Diogenes Laertius
Diogenes Laertius
Diogenes Laertius was a biographer of the Greek philosophers. Nothing is known about his life, but his surviving Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is one of the principal surviving sources for the history of Greek philosophy.-Life:Nothing is definitively known about his life...

 (Lives
Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers
Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is a biography of the Greek philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius, written in Greek, perhaps in the first half of the third century AD.-Overview:...

2.36-37) tells of other stories involving Xanthippe's supposed abusiveness, but he does not cite any source for them.

It seems that Xenophon's portrayal of her in his Symposium has been the most influential (Diogenes Laertius, for example, seems to quote (2.37) the Symposium passage, though he does not mention Xenophon by name), for the term "Xanthippe" has now come to mean any nagging scolding person, especially a shrewish wife.
Later writers, such as Diogenes Laertius (Lives 2.26), who cite Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 as the earliest source, say that Socrates had a second wife called Myrto
Myrto
Myrto was, according to some accounts, a wife of Socrates.The original source for the claim that she was Socrates' wife appears to have been a work by Aristotle called On Being Well-Born, although Plutarch expresses doubt that the work is genuine...

. Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 tells of a similar story, reporting that it comes from a work entitled On Good Birth, but he expresses doubt as to whether it was written by Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

. In Plutarch's version of the story, Socrates, who was already married, attended to Myrto's financial concerns when she became a widow; this does not entail marriage. We have no more reliable evidence on this issue.

Literary references


In Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio compares Katherina "As Socrates' Xanthippe or a worse" in Act 1 Scene 2. (Read here)

Addison discusses matrimony in The Spectator no.482, dated Friday 12 September 1712:
The novelist Henry Fielding
Henry Fielding
Henry Fielding was an English novelist and dramatist known for his rich earthy humour and satirical prowess, and as the author of the novel Tom Jones....

 describes the shrewish Mrs. Partridge thus:

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling
The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling
The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, often known simply as Tom Jones, is a comic novel by the English playwright and novelist Henry Fielding. First published on 28 February 1749, Tom Jones is among the earliest English prose works describable as a novel...

, Book II, Chapters iii & iv.


The English Victorian poet Amy Levy
Amy Levy
- Biography :Levy was born in Clapham, London, the second daughter of Lewis Levy and Isobel Levin. Her Jewish family was mildly observant, but as an adult Levy no longer practised Judaism; she continued to identify with the Jews as a people....

 wrote a dramatic monologue called "Xantippe"http://www.indiana.edu/~letrs/vwwp/levy/xantippe.html.

"Puttermesser and Xanthippe" is the title of one of the chapters of American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 novelist Cynthia Ozick
Cynthia Ozick
Cynthia Ozick is an American short story writer, novelist, and essayist. She is the niece of the Hebraist Abraham Regelson.-Background:Cynthia Shoshana Ozick was born in New York City, the second of two children...

's 1997 novel The Puttermesser Papers
The Puttermesser Papers
The Puttermesser Papers is a novel written by Cynthia Ozick. It was published in 1997. It could also be considered a collection of short stories, as each of the five "chapters" were published previously in various magazines before being brought together as this book; however, the book has the...

, a National Book Award
National Book Award
The National Book Awards are a set of American literary awards. Started in 1950, the Awards are presented annually to American authors for literature published in the current year. In 1989 the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization which now oversees and manages the National Book...

 finalist.

In Michelle Cliff
Michelle Cliff
Michelle Cliff is a Jamaican-American author whose notable works include No Telephone to Heaven, Abeng and Free Enterprise.Cliff also has written short stories, prose poems and works of literary criticism...

's poem "The Garden
The Garden
- Places :*Madison Square Garden, the arena of the New York Knicks basketball and New York Rangers ice hockey teams*The Garden, a school of philosophy founded by Epicurus c...

", the speaker wears a t-shirt
T-shirt
A T-shirt is a style of shirt. A T-shirt is buttonless and collarless, with short sleeves and frequently a round neck line....

 that reads "Xantippe."

In Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
-Biography:She was born in Berkeley, California. She attended Berkeley schools through high school followed by three years at San Francisco State College .In November 1969 she married Donald Simpson and divorced in February 1982...

's book of short stories entitled Saint Germain: Memoirs
Count Saint-Germain (vampire)
The Count Saint-Germain is a fictional character from a series of novels written by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. The character was inspired by a historical Count Saint-Germain, a mysterious figure in 18th century France.- History :...

in the story "Harpy"

Philosopher Daniel Dennett
Daniel Dennett
Daniel Clement Dennett is an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophy of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. He is currently the Co-director of...

 named his sailboat
Sailboat
A sailboat or sailing boat is a boat propelled partly or entirely by sails. The term covers a variety of boats, larger than small vessels such as sailboards and smaller than sailing ships, but distinctions in the size are not strictly defined and what constitutes a sailing ship, sailboat, or a...

 "Xanthippe".

In Maryse Conde's book "Crossing the Mangrove," there is a character named Xantippe. He lives outside the community in the woods and many characters are afraid of him; this is because he rarely speaks and is a hermit.

In Cynthia Ozick's 1997 novel, The Puttermesser Papers, Ruth Puttermesser creates a golem who insists on being called "Xanthippe."

A fictional account of Xanthippe's relationship with her husband is presented in the play "Xanthippe" by the British author and playwright Deborah Freeman. "Xanthippe" was first produced at the Brockley Jack Theatre, London (UK), in 1999.

Xanthippe features in the radio show Acropolis Now
Acropolis Now (radio)
Acropolis Now is a BBC Radio sitcom set in Ancient Greece, written by the author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lynne Truss. It was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in two series in 2000 and 2002, with subsequent reruns on BBC 7 in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010....

as Socrates' wife. She is the only heterosexual in Athens and has an unrequited crush on Plato.

In his poem 'An Acrostic', Edgar Allan Poe makes references to her although he allegedly purposely misspells her name and instead writes 'Zantippe'.

Asteroid
Asteroid
Asteroids are a class of small Solar System bodies in orbit around the Sun. They have also been called planetoids, especially the larger ones...

 156 Xanthippe
156 Xanthippe
156 Xanthippe is a large main-belt asteroid. It has a carbonaceous composition and an extremely dark surface. It is named after Xanthippe, the wife of Socrates.It was discovered by J. Palisa on November 22, 1875....

is named in her honour.